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Keywords:

  • Audit culture;
  • disciplinary formation;
  • governance of higher education;
  • interdisciplinarity;
  • mode 2 knowledge;
  • social studies

Abstract

This paper is about tendencies to the subversion of sociology as a discipline. It connects external factors of the wider socio-political environment of higher education in the UK, especially those associated with the audit culture and new systems of governance, with the internal organization of the discipline. While the environment is similar for all social science subjects, the paper argues that there are specific consequences for sociology because of characteristics peculiar to the discipline. The paper discusses these consequences in terms of the changing relationship between sociology and the growing interdisciplinary area of applied social studies as a form of ‘mode 2 knowledge’. It argues that while sociology ‘exports’ concepts, methodologies and personnel it lacks the internal disciplinary integrity of other ‘exporter’ disciplines, such as economics, political science and anthropology. The consequence is an increasingly blurred distinction between sociology as a discipline and the interdisciplinary area of applied social studies with a potential loss of disciplinary identity. The paper concludes with a discussion of how this loss of identity is associated with a reduced ability to reproduce a critical sensibility within sociology and absorption to the constraints of audit culture with its preferred form of mode 2 knowledge.